Road Numbers

There is nothing straightforward about the seemingly simple business of giving roads a number.

Road numbers have been with us for more than a century now. These pages explore the alphanumeric designations of the UK’s roads in detail, covering the detailed rules for allocating A- and B-roads and the multiple confusing systems used to number motorways.

Then, we step back in time to see how we ended up with road numbers in the first place, and how they were first applied over a hundred years ago. You can also read a very enjoyable account of the numbering scheme, written back when it was still something of a novelty.

Celebrating 100 years of road numbers

From A1 to B9993, the system that has put every number in its place for over a hundred years.

M-numbers and A(M) numbers, and the confusing mish-mash of overlapping systems that allocate them.

A deep dive into the numbers that are misplaced, lost, recycled, invented, duplicated, nonsensical, mistaken or just plain wrong.

One hundred years ago a numbering system was produced that's still with us today. How did it work - and why was it done in the first place?

In autumn 1934 a journalist turned up at the Ministry of Transport hoping to gather some information for an article about road numbering. This is what he wrote.

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Picture credits

  • The photograph of the C14 signs appears courtesy of Mike Burns.

In this section

What's new

London’s other forgotten motorways

We’ve spent years documenting the unbuilt urban motorway network planned for London. Today we’re unveiling more new routes that have never been seen before!

The middle of nowhere

A national system of road numbers radiating from a central point suggests there is… well, a central point. But if you go looking for it you’ll find it doesn’t exist.

Not so Smart

There have been rumours for months. Now the announcement has been made - “all new Smart Motorways scrapped”. What does this mean and who are the winners?

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